Amazon made its first appearance at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) conference series in New York this week, marking a dramatic year for Amazon Marketing Services in particular. That’s in part because in its first appearance in a report from analytics firm Advertiser Perceptions, Amazon Advertising Platform was rated the most-used DSP – even more than Google’s DoubleClick.
Amazon Ad Principles
In a session on Tuesday (October 24), Colleen Aubrey, vice president of performance advertising at Amazon Marketing Services, pointed to Amazon’s notorious customer obsession principle and said that’s why Amazon Marketing Services prioritizes first the customer, then the advertiser and finally the publisher (which, today, is primarily Amazon itself, but also some external sites for display products).
That, in turn, is because if “you build a great experience for the customer, there’s an opportunity to generate great value for the advertiser,” Aubrey said.
Amazon has long focused its customer experience on price, selection and convenience, allowing the ecommerce giant to build what Aubrey called a “pretty engaged customer base.” Indeed, reports say Amazon Prime now has 90 million members in the US alone. And, per Amazon’s figures, 92% of shoppers who start their purchase journey on Amazon end up making their purchase through Amazon.
“Without an engaged customer base, the ability to offer [a] compelling [product] as an advertiser is not there,” Aubrey said.
Amazon Ad Products
Amazon started working on a CPC offering a decade ago and has since iterated with different ad products, including text-based ads.
“We learned brands struggled to drive discovery within the Amazon experience, which led to the creation of products going in the right direction in the Amazon Marketing Services portal,” Aubrey added.
Today, advertisers have a range of Amazon ad offerings to choose from, including Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads and Stores. The latter launched a few months ago and allows brands to create curated shopping experiences on Amazon.
“It could fundamentally change the way customers shop on Amazon,” Aubrey said. “It introduced a branded shopping experience that hasn’t been a core part of the [Amazon] experience so far.”
Aubrey called out Big Dot of Happiness in particular, saying its Amazon Store allowed the party brand to solve the problem of consumers only buying a single product on Amazon whereas they purchased multiples from its website.
Makeup brand Maybelline is another with an Amazon Store with “lots of video to demonstrate new shades,” she added.
Stores are discoverable on the product detail page, by headline search ads and also by the URL amazon.com/brand.
“We’re trying to enable an ad experience that drives discovery, engagement, consideration and purchase and with a Store, [brands] drive more loyalty and engagement on an ongoing basis,” Aubrey said.
At the same time, Aubrey warned that if advertisers’ product detail pages are bad, it’s a waste of money to drive traffic to them. That includes lack of production information, poor quality images and negative reviews.
“The whole purpose of the page is to drive conversions…it won’t work if the product is out of stock or if it’s a product customers don’t love,” she added.
In fact, Aubrey said Amazon will stop serving certain ads if a product is out of stock.
Amazon Ad Tools
In the meantime, Aubrey said Amazon is “working hard” to enable analytics so advertisers can see how customers travel through their Stores and track traffic and conversion rate.
In response to a question about whether Amazon has a Quality Score like Google, Aubrey said, “Yes and no,” adding, “Yes, we put a lot of emphasis on understanding the quality of advertising…no, we haven’t gotten to a point we feel really good at that so we can expose it to advertisers to take reasonable action. It’s an often-requested feature. We are aware of it and we’ve worked through several iterations.”
In addition, she said Amazon does not have a separate keyword tool like Google, but advertisers can ask for keyword recommendations and also integrate recommendations with the API.
“Some things we think differently about than other advertising solutions,” Aubrey said. “Some of that is around reflecting the profile of demand. That’s why we don’t give exact numbers, but you can expect iteration on tools.”
When it comes to voice-based ads, Aubrey said she had “nothing to talk about at this time.”
However, she added, “We are pleased with the way customers engage with Echo and how other brands are using the Alexa platform. It’s early days, there’s lots to learn. But the same way we focused on…the Amazon customer experience [for 20+ years], we’re taking time to invest in what is a great experience with voice interaction and devices. Once we know more, we will look at other opportunities in advertising.”
Until then, here are five ways brands can succeed with existing Amazon ad products:
- Start with Sponsored Products.
Per Aubrey, this is a relatively simple way to get started and to learn about how advertising works in an Amazon shopping environment. Brands can advertise one or all of their products and access recommended keywords and bids to get started and to learn about what the demand curve looks like and whether they can meet their ROI goals. Aubrey said Amazon also has auto targeting with keywords that are a fit for a brand’s products.
“If you’re looking to dip your toe in the water and understand the opportunity and how it could change your demand profile at Amazon, it’s a good way to get started. You should see quick results.”
- Get into Headline Search and Product Display Ads.
These products encompass more use cases and help keep a brand top of mind, including the ability to cross-sell and upsell, Aubrey said.
- Enable Bid+.
When advertisers enable this feature, they allow Amazon to increase their bids by up to 50% to win impressions in a top placement based on what Amazon observes their downstream conversion looks like.
“Advertisers with new products and who want to bid on getting maximum share of voice know this placement will convert very well, so they enable Bid+ — which increases their bids to get more impressions at the top of the page relative to expected conversion and ad spend should stay stable,” Aubrey said.
What’s more, she said advertisers can see end-to-end within the shopping experience – from the way a consumer first sees a brand to the way they interact and make decisions, like adding to a cart or wish list.
“It gives you the full spectrum of inputs to make decisions about how to invest your marketing dollars,” she added.
- Optimize for Always-On.
These products are contextually targeted, so Amazon will only serve ads when there is specifically expressed intent.
“Ads will ebb and flow with expressed demand from customers, but if you don’t use Always On, there will be demand from customers you’ll miss. You can set a daily budget and you can…set a specific period and budget.
- And, finally, build an Amazon Store for all the benefits noted above.